A Melbourne man’s dream of flying into space is a giant leap towards reality following the success of Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic’s first passenger space flight, Unity 22.
Scott Copeland, 52, who won the Virgin Australia Ultimate Upgrade to Space competition in 2014 and a seat for a future Virgin Galactic mission, is now officially part of the Space Line’s Future Astronaut Community.
The father of three grown children is expected to follow in Sir Richard’s footsteps as one of Virgin Galactic’s first passengers.
Speaking from his home in north-east Melbourne, Copeland, a senior banker turned astronaut, Copeland said he has dreamed of entering space since he was in elementary school.
â€œI still pinch myself every day as my dream of entering space is nearing reality,â€ Copeland said.
â€œWhen I won the Virgin Australia competition in 2014, I made a commitment to find my primary school teacher from 1979 who told me at the time that I had to reconsider my dream of flying in space. Remarkably, I was able to locate her 35 years later to share this incredible story.
â€œDreams really do come true and my story is proof of that. I cannot thank Virgin Australia and Virgin Galactic enough for changing my life.
Since winning the competition, self-identified “space enthusiast,” Copeland has traveled to California’s Mojave Desert to tour the Virgin Galactic facilities with other future astronauts and see the VSS Unity spacecraft.
To indulge his passion for space travel, he also visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as well as the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
In the early hours of Monday morning, the Unity 22 spaceflight mission began, propelling Branson through the atmosphere into space on VSS Unity, before returning safely to Earth, along with his fellow crew members.
â€œCongratulations to our Founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic and the Unity 22 Mission Specialists for successfully opening space travel to all of humanity,â€ said Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO of the Virgin Australia Group.
â€œSir Richard’s success holds so much hope for all the people of the world at a time when we need it most. Hope for humanity, hope for the future and hope to dream big.
Hrdlicka said Velocity is the only loyalty program in Australia to award a member a ticket to space.
â€œWe are so proud that by working with Virgin Galactic we were able to make Scott’s childhood dream come true by simply joining Velocity and flying with Virgin Australia,â€ she said.
A total of 600 people have independently purchased tickets for future Virgin Galactic spaceflight missions, with more tickets expected to go on sale soon.